As healthcare professionals who work very closely with their clients, massage therapists are often called upon to interfere with a painful muscular problem. Accordingly, the discovery of a potentially therapeutic connection between two seemingly unrelated areas can help therapists unlock a complex pain puzzle. By recognizing that tension in the jaw can equate to tension in the pelvis, bodyworkers can devise a strategy to effectively reduce a person’s pain. While centuries of non-traditional, clinical evidence demonstrate a connection between the hip and jaw, a German clinical study has recently validated a relationship between these two regions.
A connection between the hip and jaw can help practitioner’s understand how congestion in the hip could translate to tension in the jaw – or vice versa. But most importantly, recognizing a mechanical, neurological or muscular problem in the hip or jaw areas might justify a therapeutic approach toward the other.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Although the jaw and hip are separated by many different body parts, including the structures composing the neck, thorax and torso, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) credits the Gallbladder channel as their unifying thoroughfare.
On the head, the Gallbladder channel:
- begins at the outer canthus of the eye
- ascends to the forehead
- passes through the temporomandibular joint
- curves downward to the region behind the ear
From there, the Gallbladder channel’s main portion:
- progresses down the neck to the supraclavicular fossa
- passes the axilla
- goes down the lateral side of the chest to the ribs
- convenes at the hip with the channel’s internal branch
- descends along the lateral aspect of the thigh and leg
- ends at the lateral side of the fourth toe
Although there are a variety of structures traversed by the Gallbladder channel, the temporomandibular joint and the hip are two commonly affected areas by a channel blockage. Thus, shiatsu massage along easily accessible Gallbladder channel portions can relieve pain anywhere along its course, including the jaw and hip.
Healthcare professionals who give prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend births and provide postpartum care, midwives generally strive to help women have a healthy pregnancy and natural birth experience. Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) Ina May Gaskin, has been described by many in the field as the mother of authentic midwifery.
To help women take control of their birthing experience, one of the many pearls of wisdom Gaskin has taught is the “sphincter law.” This law states that if your jaw and mouth are slack, so is your bottom. The connection between the jaw and bottom (or pelvis) is paramount during labor and birthing because it can facilitate or impede the mom and infant’s progress. Thus, high-pitched noises (where the jaw is tense) during labor can be counter-productive for pelvis relaxation and opening of the birth canal. Conversely, a low moan with the mouth open gently (where the jaw is loose) is a powerful catalyst to an infant’s delivery.
As published in the June 2009 edition of Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, researchers from Hanover Medical School in Germany concluded the hip and jaw connection long known by TCM practitioners and midwives. By studying patients with complex regional pain syndrome, researchers looked at changes in range of motion following myofascial release and following jaw clenching.
Confirming a connection between these two regions, the researchers concluded that temporomandibular joint dysfunction plays an important role in the restriction of hip motion experienced by patients with complex regional pain syndrome, which indicated a connectedness between these two regions of the body.
Whether you are a student of TCM, midwifery or myofascial release techniques, there is no questioning the hip and jaw relation. By applying shiatsu techniques to the gallbladder channel, encouraging clients with hip pain to open their mouth and moan or using myofascial release on both the hip and jaw for pain in either location, Gaskin’s “sphincter law” can help bodyworkers deliver pain relief to their affected clients.